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March 2009

Kefir helps kick a stomach virus


Just when I thought I'd have this stomach virus the rest of the year, just when I thought that losing 10 pounds in a week might be excessive, I stopped that virus in its tracks with a big glass of peach kefir.

What is kefir? Pronounced kuh-feer, it is a cultured yogurt drink loaded with stomach-friendly probiotics. I had been Googling about for "stomach virus cure" and stomach flu diet" and more than once came across advice on eating yogurt or similar foods with probiotics.

I had a little Lifeway peach kefir left in the fridge, so I had it for dinner a couple nights ago. Then I had a glass before bed and the next morning for breakfast. And for the past two days I've been feeling fine.

Kefir makes a great breakfast beverage or afternoon snack. It has around 160 calories for an 8 ounce glass, 11 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. It also has those healthy tummy bugs and 30 percent of your calcium for the day.

The consistency is that of a thinner smoothie and the taste is tart, yogurty and sweet (as long as you don't get the unflavored -- I'm not brave enough to try that). And like yogurt, kefir tends to be well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant (me!). It comes in a bunch of flavors -- I like peach the best but blueberry's also tasty (if you can get past the gray-blue color). There's even a cappuccino flavor but I don't think that would pair well with the tart base. If you've ever had a glass of lassi at an Indian restaurant it's a similar experience.

I get my kefir at the regular grocery store, but if you're store isn't as enlightened you usually can find it at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.

Lifeway is the predominant brand (and it also owns the organic Helios brand) but Nancy's is another.

My bologna has a first name, it's d-e-a-t-h

Baloneyface Eating red meat increases your chance of dying prematurely, according to a large study.

The study of more than a half million middle-age and elderly Americans is supported by the National Cancer Institute and published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study  found that people who ate the equivalent of about a small hamburger every day were more than 30 percent more likely to die during the 10 years they were followed, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Processed meat, such as cold cuts and sausage (and even clown bologna!), also increased the risk.

And yes, pork counts too, even though it's touted as the "other white meat." Turns out it's not because of its iron content.

So what in red meat makes it so dangerous? Lotsa stuff:

  • The way it's cooked: High-heat grilling creates cancer-causing compounds.
  • Iron content: Believed to promote cancer
  • High in saturated fat: Associated with colorectal and breast cancers
  • Curing: Many cold cuts contain the preservative nitrates, which form nitrosamines, also associated with cancer.

Eating fish, chicken, turkey and other poultry decreased the risk of death by a small amount, the study found.

8 pounds off and Blog of the Day: Happy Monday!

Scale I pulled Biggest Loser style numbers this week as a result of my wicked stomach virus -- 8 pounds in one week. So far today I've played it safe with a smoothie and a protein bar -- I'm going to be nice to my tummy.

And I found out that Shrinking Sisters is the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Blog of the Day. The Sun Sentinel is where I co-wrote the late lamented blog The Skinny (which surprisingly still lives on and pulls decent numbers for being a "dead" blog -- that, my friends, is called search-engine optimized writing).

Keeping down food and blog kudos is a good way to kick off the week. Hopefully I can get back to Jazzercising again.

So if you're finding us for the first time, welcome! And keep coming back.

How to keep off the 6 pounds lost from the stomach flu

Creamofwheat I'm finally climbing out from under the rock of my weeklong stomach virus. Fortunately, all it involved was an extreme loss of appetite -- none of those other more icky symptoms. I drank plenty of fluids, so I'm not dehydrated.

And I lost 6 pounds!

Now, to keep it off.

It helps that I wasn't dehydrated, because that weight will come right back on. So I'm easing back into solids, to keep my tummy happy as well as the scale. Today it's been nothing but Cream of Wheat made with oat milk -- bland but safe.

Nighttime eating has been my bugaboo but I haven't been doing that at all this week since I wanted my stomach good and empty before bed. Maybe I've broken myself of the habit.

I'm going to treat this as some sort of masochistic detox jumpstart plan and stay on the straight and narrow.

Guinness is diet food!


You might think that the dark, syrupy Guinness beer that everyone's quaffing today is much higher in calories than a regular brew.

Ay but you'd be wrong, laddy!

Turns out, 12 ounces of Guinness Draught has 126 calories. In comparison, Miller High Life has 146 calories and Michelob Light has 134 calories.

Another benefit to dark beer: It offers some of the same heart-healthy benefits as chocolate and red wine, according to a 2003 study. A University of Wisconsin scientist says the benefits come from the flavonoids in the beer.

So raise a glass to St. Patrick's Day -- and keep it at one.

My arthritis cure: Exercise

Aerobic shoes  

Y'know how I was complaining about the arthritis in my big toe and how it was limiting my workouts?

After I got the pain down to a low roar, I decided to ignore it and press on. The past couple weeks I've been dancing my ass off at Jazzercise three times a week. And guess what?

Omega 3 fish oilNo more pain in my foot. At all.

Turns out I had been babying myself a little too much. By exercising, I've kept my foot flexible and pain free. I've also been making sure to take fish oil two to three times a day. Fish oil, in large doses, can have an anti-inflammatory effect.

HERE'S an article from on exercising with arthritis. Among the benefits of exercise, it can:

  • Strengthen the muscles around your joints
  • Help you maintain bone strength
  • Give you more strength and energy to get through the day
  • Make it easier to get a good night's sleep
  • Help you control your weight
  • Make you feel better about yourself and improve your sense of well-being

I can't figure out what started the pain all of a sudden, but I sure know what ended it

If wiper fluid looks like Kool-Aid, kids shouldn't be drinking either one

Just read an awful story about a daycare operator in Arkansas who surrendered her state license after 10 children in her care mistakenly drank windshield wiper fluid, thinking it was Kool-Aid.

According to The Associated Press story, only one child remained hospitalized Friday morning, after blood samples showed "measurable levels" of methanol, a highly toxic alcohol that can induce comas and cause blindness, officials said. The day care also provided the fluid for testing.

The wiper fluid was purchased at the same time as other supplies for the daycare center. The worker thought the brightly colored liquid was Kool-Aid and put the container in the refrigerator.

Bottom line: Serving a bunch of little kids bright blue or blue-green liquid, whether it be Kool-Aid or wiper fluid, is bad news. What's wrong with 100 percent juice or plain old water? Yes, Juicy Juice probably costs more than "blue drink" but you can water it down, which is what most pediatricians advise anyway. There's no reason to serve that sugary junk to our kids.

Produce of the week, from John Mayer

Honeydew If you didn't already know, musician John Mayer is a prolific and hilarious blogger and Tweeter on Twitter. He just offered one up that makes a fine Produce of the Week item:

johncmayer Honeydew melons are the sweetest of the melons. They are an excellent source of potassium.

I was never a fan of honeydew melons until it kept showing up in fruit salad, so instead of discarding it I ate it instead. I still don't buy the things at the grocery store but I do enjoy them cut up in fruit salad (yummy yummy -- Wiggles reference).

Melons are especially good for dieters because they're loaded with water, making them filling and lower in calories than many fruits.

Snacktime survival winners of Bob Harper book and Extra gum

Well, it's my birthday (I'm OLD!) but you're getting the presents -- at least those of you who provided comments to my snacktime survival query (Winners will be contacted by e-mail). Sorry this was so late -- the time change basically destroyed my entire day.

Winners of Bob Harper's book Are You Ready?:

Amy: I keep a bag of frozen berries in the freezer at work and a supply of Light & Fit yogurt in the fridge. About 3pm, I give some berries a quick thaw in the microwave and dump the yogurt on top. It keeps me going -- and keeps me from hitting the drive thru on the way home.

Amber: I have a horrible habit of picking up pieces of candy on people's desks around the office. It seems like those mini chocolate pieces are everywhere. My newest afternoon snack other than gum is an apple with Barney Butter smeared on the side or a bag of 100 calorie popcorn..yum.

Lornadoone Ifey:
My favorite afternoon snack is a medium orange with 12 almonds. My biggest afternoon snack are the Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. I try avoid going to the vending machine at this time at work. I don't have the cookies at home.

Vicki: Afternoon snacks are generally not a problem. I'm hungry in the morning. My favorite movie line ever is the one from Lord of the Rings when the Hobbit Pip is concerned about the lack of regular meatimes. "What about second breakfast?" he asks. RIGHT! SECOND BREAKFAST. That's my favorite meal. So once I've had second breakfast, lunch can wait. Sometimes untl afternoon snack time, when I eat lunch. But if I need an afternoon snack, my favorite healthy ones are carrots and celery with homemade hummus or a couple of those little clementine tangerines, when they are in season. At this time of year, my biggest weakness any time of the day or night is GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! I don't really like gum, but I chew it sometimes to make the coffee breath go away.

Winners of 10 packs of Extra Sugar-Free gum:

Runnin4fun: My favorite healthy snacks are lowfat flavored yogurt,cut up fruit,microwavable individual soups,butterscotch candies(not healthy, but low calorie and savory),sometimes a cup of coffee with some flavored creamer will take away my urge for sweets. that is my weakness-anything sweet and carby! cookies,brownies,sweets in the breakroom,chocolates left by the doctors,etc.

Leah: I keep packages of frozen vegetables in the office fridge and nuke them when I hit that 3 pm gotta have sugar rush!

Pearapple Trish: My favorite afternoon snack is fruit. It has just enough of the natural sugar to help me over the hump. My key though is not just any fruit, but one I can pair with a protein like an apple with cheese or PB, or a pear with cheese or berries with plain fat free yogurt. That combo really works and helps me.

Lisa: I've been snacking on apples with peanut butter. I got one of those tools that slices the apple, it's great. You just set it on top and push down, you get several slices and it takes the core out. Since I bought it, even my kids eat more apples, just because they like to use the tool. Hey - whatever works! LOL